tv Kevin Williamson The Smallest Minority CSPAN October 19, 2019 10:45am-11:30am EDT
inspired them. and wrapping up our look at some of the best-selling nonfiction books according to madison wisconsin was tara westover's account of growing up in the idaho mountains. in her introduction to formal education at the age of 17. in her book educated. it's been on the bestseller list for nearly two years. some of these authors have appeared on book tv and you can watch them online. kevin williamson of the national review ear your latest book is called the smallest minority. in this book you write that i come not to praise democracy but to bury it, what do you think. i dislike that something becomes better or more important or more respectable because more people adhere to it. often it's weird being a
writer right now because they are treated as politicians. you represent. i say nobody. i'm not running for office. we live in a time a politics as team sports. in the team's poor aspect of politics has really displaced almost everything else in the intellectual content. and now just tribe on tribe action. i don't think having a bigger gang is necessarily something that tells you anything about whether an idea is good or not. the fact is 50% of the population if you watch broadcast television or you look at the actual bestsellers list. great big crowds of people that i don't trust very much. the original sin of that journalist is his or her
desire to be liked. i see this a lot. you can shop for opportunities to invest. and there are a lot of writers who are unable to resist the urge to play to the crowd. to engage in constituent service. i understand the desire to want to be popular to an extent, we have to sell books. we were to be popular in the way. where they have the devoted culture's followers. it i think it's pretty true that in britain journalism is part as part of the literary world. i think that's true.
i think the journalist here and the in the state asked too much like politicians. >> you spent right up at a time of social media in your book. >> i don't use any social media in your book you spent quite a bit of time talking about social media. >> if you have ever been to the monkey house in one of those awful downscale zoos that smell very intensely the way you would imagine bernie sanders probably smells. they jerk off and fling poo all day. using the same hand for both and they don't do a lot else unless there is mcdonald's. all day, jerk off, fling poo jerk off, jerk fling, jerk fling . i don't think a social media is the cause of our current
distasteful political culture. it doesn't change who you are underneath but it makes it that willingness to express what you are. i used to live near this temple and new delhi india. it is just infested with monkeys. i like to -- i got to dislike the little creatures. it makes them a little bit dangerous. i think the tribalist tri- ballistic social media culture reduces us. it makes us less human. it brings out the inner champ and monkey and people. hasn't social media allowed
everyone to have a voice? more than we did before? not everyone really needs a voice. i am glad that people are out there able to do what they want to do. the truth that we really want to do. a lot of people don't have a lot to say. they don't actually have anything interesting or useful to add to the conversation. they still feel the need to participate. this is where you get the culture of a talking point. all of the rest of the stuff that kind of fills up the space because people feel compelled to speak and they don't have anything to say. this is an old idea. they throw about the idea of individuality is numbered into some people. who aren't really well-equipped to make the most of it. they still feel the demands of it. they feel the need to participate.
doing so is not something that is well suited well-suited for. and not something that's more of a burden than an opportunity for a lot of people. who is the smallest minority. most of it is the individual. that is a line that i stole. it's a good line but she's not a very good writer i don't think. she is a good writer who misused her talents who could've been a fine novelist. i borrowed that from her. the problem with our culture the way it is. we can't interact with one another as individuals. and enhance that and such. who are the tribal groups. roughly liberals and conservatives.
roughly republicans and democrats. these are the short hands for broader social groups. largely but not exclusively coastal urban we have an largely right-wing conservative culture. the conservatives feel like they had been robbed of power and diminished. they live in what they believe to be the most important places. one of the weird things about conservatives right now as you spend all of the time talking about america great again the places that are really successful to actually hate. there is a sense of a zero-sum status game. that means team blue is
diminished. it means that it means the same thing. and they go nuts. they have this really inexplicable swings. this is not the result of a political culture that has been driven by policy or by reason or anything else. it's pure tribalism and identity politics. >> we do seem to spend a lot of time been outraged today. i think it's partly performance art. i don't think anyone as nearly as angry as they pretend to be. it is a weird time for a lot of people. and the rich parts of the world. they are economically better off than we've ever been. our status is more or less
fixed than it used to be. you don't associate yourself with the big corporations. the lack of certainty makes people new sources of fixedness. revision is i can do it because there has been a decline. unfortunately they had spent a lot of politics. that is a source of the anger. one of the things that you are the smallest minority. both of them basically come from the same text.
collectivism for a better word. it's an idea that we gain value in groups rather than individuals. it's a very primitive way of looking at the world. it is the same i think intellectual shape is that idea it comes from the same place the desire to find something to which to belong to give meaning to oneself that is larger and broader and hopefully immortal or closer to it. give a word and here i want to ask you the destined -- definition. this comes from a greek term that goes way back to plato and before that, essentially it means mob rule. i did not want to use it just that phrase. they talk about it is really
more when to do their bidding for them. to say that we want that. what the rules actually are and what is right. we expect these agencies to comply with it. as a unit of political discipline. where people lose their jobs for having bad that. they are like me that are professionally involved. it is people that are managers of starbucks. and people that work in fast food restaurants. they have jobs that don't touch on public affairs or
politics in any particular direct way. nonetheless are being chased out of their jobs for having the google guy, he was a good example of that. and of course examples are really the key. because they make examples of these sorts of people and then other people other people just never express themselves. they learn to conform. with a terrible culture. in the useful productive day. >> does the social media aspect of the mob add on to this group think. it's a tool that enables either bad behavior or good behavior to be prop gated more efficiently. like any other instrument or
piece of technology. social media has some structural things i think may get a little worse. people don't go there to learn things. they go there to get affirmation. the more outrageous you are. i know this is a writer that occasionally i write something that is will reported and thoughtful. in the digital world you know down to the number i will write something angry. it is a thousand times as many people will read those stories. if you are looking at that. and you're guilty of the original sin of popularity. you will go that direction. you will be more emotional. unfortunately that is what people tend to respond best to. >> have you been the target of a social media mob before. >> i did work at the atlantic
for three days. i was fired at the end of that time not so much for my political ideas although it was nominally over that was more about the internal status games. and people thinking that this is not a conservative outlook. we are thereby and diminished. that is what it is really about. we came up with all the ideas about abortion. if it wasn't one wanting him one thing it was can be another thing. it was less about my political ideas. no one ever called to ask me about those kind of things. it was about my opinions you would think that they would want to know where they are. >> did you show up at the office. i wasn't going to work from that office. i live in texas in the plan
>> no one ever spoke to me about it, in fact, jeff goldberg editor there planned a meeting where we would get together and talk about this sort of stuff and right before it was supposed to happen, he said i can't put you in front of this group, i'm ready to go, let's do it, let's throw down, that was that. >> what did you write that got you fired? >> well, normally -- >> had you written it prior? >> yeah, i wrote one article for the atlantic and it was about how it's unpopular political idea that no one really likes it that much. that was totally uncontroversial, a discussion i had on twitter years and years before i went to work with the atlantic. >> years before. >> so i think abortion ought to be criminalized and oppose today capital punishment but i've argued in the past if we are
going to have capital punishment, we shouldn't put them in gurney, it should do in violent manner and use old traditional form of capital punishment like hanging or firing squad or something like that, the things came together as kevin wants to hang women who have abortions which is not exactly a fair statement of my views on the issue, but that was that. >> who instigated the attacks? >> folks like media matters, the professional left-wing pressure organizations, probably the people on the staff, probably the people on the staff were significant ones, i don't know who, you never really get to speak to people about it. >> in fact, you write in your newest book smallest minority, that's social media mob politics with many heads.
>> yeah. >> you also talk about something called instant culture. >> yeah. >> what is that? >> it's the way in which we have lowered the amount of work we are willing to do to engage with culture. it's a displacement of books by twitter, displacement of essays by 120 characters, displacement of long commitments in deal with political ideas and other kinds of intellectual development, religious ideas with what's going on right now right in this second, right in this minute and instant culture is kind of a substitute for real culture, it's the world of reality television and social media and instantaneous transmission to things that don't really last and it's shallow, snarky sarcasm driven way this kind of mode of communication which can be fun an useful for short periods of time but it's like if you had a
world in which political one-liners developed on shows you would be losing something, and i think we've moved in that direction. >> quote, communication is only incidental to social media. >> yeah. so, yeah, social media is not about changing ideas, it's about getting nice feedback, it's about people paying attention to you and attention must be paid, right? and people go there for affirmation, confirmation, to be told that they're doing the right thing, to be told that they people they don't like are evil and political figure adolf hitler, you don't go to learn things, you don't go to twitter and say they had interesting ideas about important information on economy and socialism wasn't able to avail itself of that kind of information or impossible to do, that's not why you go to
facebook, right, that's not why you go twitter, that's why you you would go to books and i wish people would spend more time with books. >> kevin williamson we have a president that has used twitter once or twice. >> we do. >> what does that say to you? >> my last week was case before trump which was in effective apparently, yeah, donald trump is the perfect exemplar in some way. that's not why people went to donald trump. i think there are fine reasons to vote for donald trump, i wouldn't have myself but if you're a conservative and you say, we'll well, donald versus hillary, i choose hillary. people went to trump as a
mascot, they are the swamp, they are in washington and new york and places like that which, of course, trump lives on central park, never mind that for the moment and they are ripping you off and i'm going to go and make things right and i'm going to do so by writing mean things on twitter and giving them demeaning names and things like that, people who voted for this guy and made him president of the united states of america because they liked the way they give people schoolyard nicknames and liked the way he trolled people on twitter and that's really why they still like him and this is why i'm skeptical about the value of democracy in some ways, democracy is useful as totalitarian matter, substitute that we have for war, but it can also bring out what our founding fathers called the passion and they didn't like the word passion, they didn't like the word democracy either if you
go back to john adams and they were worried about it. trump is the democracy that john adams warned us about. >> quote, procedural democracy is a -- pardon me, procedural democracy is a convenience, pes fies the chimps in the electorate and gives ritual combat for chimps in office. >> yeah, certain decisions we have to make collectively today. that's not how societies are organized and certain things that we have to decide as groups. there aren't really many good ways about doing that, we can fight about it and whoever wins gets to decide and that's how we did, we can have votes about it, we can use the law which is a useful piece of technology that
we should probably rely on more, so democracy as a convenience is when we get together and say we have a real disagreement on how to handle, say, health care, so we are going to vote and choose people to work out that on our behalf and sort of try to stick together through it because it's really the only way to go about it but democracy as something that's -- democracy produces all sorts of bad things, if you had to vote on slavery in 1800's, they would have voted for slavery. >> where did you grew up? >> i grew up in lubbock, texas? >> what did your folks do? >> my mother was a secretary at texas tech university and her husband janitor of high school. >> do you consider yourself a classic conservative? whatever that is today.
>> in a sense i supposed, i grew up reading william buckley, the reason that i wanted to become a writer and got to know him little bit later in life which was a great privilege for me, i consider myself in being in that tradition. in many ways i think of myself what we once would have described as liberal in the sense that i believe in free trade and individual liberties, the rule of law and those sorts of things, to a liberal in a sense, liberal in the sense that maybe written in 19th century or to some extent the way it's still used in europe, i'm not a conservative in the sense that i have a particularly reactionary taste in culture, i don't think that the, you know, the world of 1950's is some sort of golden ideal, although eisenhower is my favorite president, i would like to get to some of that that spl-
political sentiment there. there's things which i'm conservative and some things that i'm a radical libertarian and sellout republican who is happy to see change happen slowly and incrementally and cautiously. >> are you part of the republican establishment? >> that's funny. i quit the republican party in 2006, the great thing about this rhetoric about the establishment which always makes me laugh, i was at a dinner party, hosted by a media figure and there was a guy there who was talking about, you know, how antiestablishment he was and how the establishment hated him and i said, you're chairman of the state republican party in your state, you the establishment, you can't be antiestablishment. a couple of weeks ago spent time with well-known political activists, holders of some of
the highest offices in the land and talking about antiestablishment, i'm not a member of the republican party. >> how would you describe donald trump's politics and how is he doing? >> lucky in many ways, in some ways he's better than i expected him to be and in some ways he's worse. thank god he's lazy and choosing judges, he lays out on federalist society, larry kudlow, other people who, you know, he would talk about being part of the swamp if they were in any other context, he has good people around him. i think betsy devos has done good things on education. tax reform bill was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but there were important reforms in there and
it was a classic republican bill written in usual republican way by the republican establishment, all he did was sign off on it. you know, that's kind of a emblematic that he comes to power really talking about illegal immigration and trade and republicans, of course, first and last thing they always want to do is do business, that's what they got done, he didn't get any immigration stuff down while his party normally party controlled house and congress, in many ways he's a lot worse than i expected him to be because i kind of thought that at some point he would sit down in that chair and go, like, damn i'm president of the united states of america and grow the hell up and start acting like an adult and he didn't do that, he ran off as fast as he could in the opposite direction, in terms of foreign relations, trade policy, our international relations in general, national security to some extent he's been pretty bad. he's had a lucky run of things in some ways, the economy has been doing pretty well but that
also makes you hostage to it, if your argument for yourself, the stock market has done well while i'm president, then you have to worry about what the stock market will do in september or october before the elections and if i were betting my own money on it right now, i would just marginally bet on him getting reelected only because the democrats will probably nominate somebody who is incompetent. [laughter] >> putting this time in history, are we better than we were 40 years ago or are we -- are we more outraged? i'm not using my words very well and i apologize for that, but where do you see us in history right now? >> the best times of human rights ever experienced, we are wealthier, we are more free, we live longer, better health care, we are better housed, better
fed, better taken care of than any group of human beings have ever been in the history of our species and the last 30 years we cut severe poverty around the world and got rid of diseases and the rotary club, group of guy who is get together once a week and local small business guys, let's get rid of polio, i bet we can do that and they more or less have unfortunately in pakistan and afghanistan which they are not able to work in. in almost every measurable way, human beings are better off right now than they have ever been, it's so strange and so upset and so angry and so anxious, so those benefits have been the result of big broad global economic and social changes that are used popular word disruptive and people really dislike disruption, people would rather, i think, in many ways have their lives be stagnant but predictable rather than improving but dynamic and
insecure and uncertain and i think that both the benefits we've seen and the rage and lamentation are really the results of the same phenomena which we call for a lack of a better world globalization. >> kevin williamson is free speech under threat? >> well, it's funny, yes and no. as a legal matter not at all. first amendment juries prudence, evil conservative who is look at the first amendment and say, well, it says what it says, i remember reading articles about scalia in flag-burning case and people surprised that scalia ruled in favor of flag-burners, someone asked him about it, i hate the guys and punched them in the face but the first amendment still says what it says, the problem for free speech isn't really right now a matter of law, although i think that's worth keeping an eye on
because law always does follow culture but right now it's primarily a culture thing. we are free to speak than 10 or 15 years ago, restrictive campaign laws which are a license on political speech have been repealed and that sort of thing but you people actually feel more free to speak their minds and i don't think that's the case, i think if you were -- if you're a hair dresser in houston, texas and you're on facebook and you're about to join houston hairdressers for donald trump 2020, you will think twice before you hit the join button because this could cost you your job, all sorts of social relationships, and that's not always necessarily a bad thing, i mean, we are gunups, responsible for what we do and say, but the fact that we've developed this exclusionary political culture that says if you don't have my politics, i'm
going to see that you can't work, you can't participate in the economy, you can't have a normal life, not problems like me bus -- because we have outlets, i got fired by the atlantic and i wrote an essay in the wall street journal. life is fine for people like me but if you don't have that ability or infrastructure, then i think, yeah, your free speech really is being constrained realistically that don't have anything to do with the government or don't have anything to do with the first amendment and how we act as people and what kind of culture we are. >> are we under the thumb in a sense of facebook, twitter, google? >> well, yeah, in a way. >> the ways people communicate
today? >> there are all sorts of ways to communicate. facebook is less important than people think it is. twitter is a lot less important than people think it is. twitter has a big cultural footprint because of sort of people who are on twitter, journalists and media figures and things like that. they all kind of really, really enjoy that instant feedback thing and i get why and understand why, but you could still write people letter, you can still write a book, e-mail rather than use to communicate. the irony of our time that the american progressives who have always been the enemy of corporations and seen being critics and adversaries to business and business culture are essentially making the culture of the hr department of fortune 500 the national political culture, this is what you have to be able to satisfy to participate in public life in some way, we see that coming from companies like facebook, twitter and google but also companies like nike and goldman
sachs and jpmorgan which take assertive and progressive view on what's acceptable and what's not acceptable. if you're -- if you're someone at apple, you're a lot less likely to lose your job for radical or offensive left-leaning speech that are radical right-leaning speech, that's pretty clear. progressives were the enemies of corporate culture right until they got first taste of corporate power and now they want to use businesses and particularly employment as a means of political coercion. >> what's the -- what's the art of the smallest minority? what's the organization? >> the book you mean? >> of the book.
>> well, it kind of -- it start off with two sort of personal essays, literary essays in a way, one is about the shakespeare and one of the great antimob characters in all of literature where he ends up getting destroyed because he will not -- he will not kiss up to the roman mob and when he tries to is when he goes wrong and the last chapter is a similar essay about satan, literary figure in dante and the great individualist, i will not serve, he's the -- he's the guy who insists on thinking for himself and leading on his own terms, he's made pretty bad decisions being satan and all,
deals with political and social ideas as to why people are so angry, where the culture comes from and why they are unable to speak to each other as individuals and only representatives of tribes, there's some writing about former political ideas, democracy which is important in europe, we talked about a little bit before, so, yeah, hits on literature, hits on occasional personal things and then about a third of the book i guess is footnotes which in some ways the real book which are profane and angry and i hope funny and which kind of are running commentary on the book as it goes, so it's two books in some ways, me writing the semiserious book about politics and social issues and me putting the notes on what i'm thinking. >> do you enjoy the process sitting in the room by yourself? >> i do. i'm a little antisocial i supposed. i write a lot, i write something like a million words a year, half of which i
publish, i suppose. so i write usually an article every day for national review, i write for every issue at the magazine, i write a column 2 or 3 months a month at the new york post, i write books about politics, i've written a few novels that i've published, i don't think they have. >> good, i like writing. >> 8 to 10 hours a day? >> no, it depends. i can typically write daily here is what's going on today, here is what i think about a column in a couple of hours, i have trouble writing for more than 3 or 3 and a half hours at a go on book step i need to take breaks, but sometimes 2 or 3 sessions in a day, there are days that i will write 12 to 15 hours and there are day that is i write 3, it just kind of depends. i suspect it adds to more than a full-time job because i don't think of it that way because it's enjoyable and it's a great
privilege to get to do it for a living. >> go back to antisocial part of it. [laughter] >> you enjoy book tours and interviews? >> i do actually. no, it's -- i'm someone who is interested in political ideas, ideas about why our society is the way it is and the people who come out and want to talk to me about the sort of stuff generally also are interested in those things. there's always the one guy in every group who never wants to talk about the jews, one in every group like that but 99% to people that come out to things like that are interesting and, you know, national review we do events, cruises and other sorts of things, part of how we keep the magazine going, the people who come up for that are very interesting people and i think that -- i mean, yeah, they come because they want to meet the writers because it much fun more us to meet them and people are business owners, executives, people who have been out in the world doing something other than
writing about it. i like meeting people who are interested in the same things that i am and having conversations about it but then i also like going home and i don't really go out a lot, i guess and i'm generally not that much past 9:30. >> the smallest minority is the name of the book, mr. williamson writes, one to have conclusion that is i hope the reader will take from the arguments in this book is that hypothetical evils are generally preferable to real ones. >> yeah. >> so the arguments made usually aren't forthrightly arguments, arguments about public safety. you know, facebook talks about this a lot. mark zuckerberg talks about this a lot. if we allow the expression of certain kinds of ideas, opinions or stories, then this will hurt
people in some way, and sometimes you have a real case for that, this is why we keep people from publishing certain kinds of information about building nuclear weapon, you can see that, pretty good case for it, that's still hypothetical but pretty big hypothetical and then you get things like, well, if you refuse to go along with this person's preferred convention for using pronouns because you have different ideas of transgender people and transgender are psychological fragile and higher rates of things like that suicide and so this constitutes effectively active violence of people and therefore we must suppress it and twitter, for instance, will ban accounts, using the name of transgender that they've given up even though it's legally their name, people who really got come down on very hard for referring to bradley manning as bradley manning, articles how bradley manning was going change name to chelsea and be identified as a woman and it
wasn't people trying to make a political point about it and describe what was going on and this was not good enough for the activists on these issues and these are harms that have very hypothetical, yeah, it is absolutely the case that transgender that suffer from addiction, suicide and violent crimes, these should be dealt with in forthright kind of way but the idea that someone writing about the issues who has nonconforming views about them as do i in some ways is going to endanger people in some kind of direct and meaningful way and therefore we should suppress that speech on the grounds of public safety it's to take very, very distant hypothetical and elevated importance about something that's real evil, suppression of speech and should always be understood as an evil even when it's a bad speech, even when it's the ku kluz klan, the suppression of speech and
communication is bad in and of itself on its own terms, this is where i think people on the left particularly the younger ones right now and basically disagree, they don't believe that. they believe that suppression actually is good on its own terms, this is the whole punch nazi thing, people afraid to speak in public but often comes out expressing itself in unlikely ways, guys like milo yiannopoulos. when fascism lands in the west, it's not going to be milo, i guaranty, it's not going to be a publicity hungry second-gay gay writer from the uk, he's not, ann coulter released character of ann coulter plays on television, i don't think it's ann coulter is not a danger to public safety. charles murray who is very controversial guy but i think a very important social scientist and writer on social policy in our time is not a neo nazi, not
a threat to public safety, not white nationalist and not the thing that he's described as being, kind of a liberal democrat but he's left behind but still people meet him on campuses with violence and calls to have him, you know, forbidden to speak and this is just not a morally or intellectually defensible position, i think. >> the cover of the book here, birds dropping nuclear bombs. >> well, nuclear bombs necessarily, the idea was great world war ii propaganda posters with the bombers going out and little twitter birds doing that. i wish i could take credit for that, that was not really my idea for the cover but i -- i kind of went back and forth on it but i think i decided i like it. >> kevin williamson, latest book called smallest minority, independent thinking in the age of mob politics, thanks for being on book tv.
>> thanks so much. >> and we are live today from the madison public library for the seventh annual wisconsin book festival, throughout the day today you'll hear from several authors including democratic political strategist donna brazile on her career, author marie on latin american history and growing up american as west borrow baptist show to name just a few, for complete schedule check your guide or visit booktv.org, now we kick off coverage with former diplomat, she will offer her thoughts on how to stop spread of islamic extremist ideology and violence. [inaudible conversations] >> good morning, everyone, i want to welcome all of you who are here in the room and all of
you watching at home at c-span book tv, we are delight today start the third day of this year's fourth day celebration, today we will do 32 events, i hope you are all staying all day. [laughter] >> we couldn't be more delighted, thank you for making more time in the morning and check out schedule and come back for more things tomorrow, we will star today, how we win, she's in conversation with hannah and i will send you over to them. [applause] >> okay, what have i don't? anyone who knows me, technology is not my friend. [laughter] >> hi, welcome to madison. >> thank you.